811.2381/69a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain (Hayes)

1689. Department’s 1549, May 30, 7 p.m. The Department has now received a letter from the Secretary of the Navy respecting unneutral [Page 418] acts of Spanish shore batteries in firing on aircraft of the United States and United Nations engaged in anti-submarine patrol. This communication summarizes following incidents:

Two American built aircraft operated under U. S. Naval Command by French squadron fired on by batteries of Santa Cruz de Tenerife April 15. One was struck by shrapnel 3½ miles offshore while the other received a shrapnel scratch from 77 millimetre gun at altitude 2,000 feet, 3 miles offshore.

U. S. Naval planes fired on by batteries of Santa Cruz April 16 and 17 while 5 miles offshore and a second attack was made on one plane at altitude 3,000 feet 3 miles offshore.

In addition United States planes were fired on by Spanish shore batteries as follows:

[Here follows list of incidents, with time and place of occurrence indicated.]

Spain evidently is unable to prevent the continuing operation of German submarines within Spanish territorial waters in violation of Spanish neutrality, and the Navy Department feels that the United Nations right should be recognized to pursue and search for enemy submarines within the 3-mile limit without bringing into question any breach of Spanish neutrality to which Germany could object.

An anti-submarine patrol with U. S. Navy blimps will be established shortly in the Mediterranean strait area, and while instructions will be given pilots to stay outside Spanish territory and territorial waters it will be difficult to control the movements of blimps because of weather. They are easily blown off course and there will be instances when pilots will be unable to carry out instructions fully.

The Navy Department desires that a strong protest be made against the unneutral acts of Spanish anti-aircraft installations in the areas of Canary Islands and Morocco in repeatedly attacking our aircraft beyond territorial waters. The Navy Department desires to have assurances that Spanish batteries will cease firing upon United States and United Nations craft offshore regardless of distance and that no attacks will be made on U. S. Navy blimps by plane, shore battery or otherwise, while operating in the areas mentioned. The Navy Department requests that the Spanish Government be asked to give special instructions to all anti-aircraft and coastal batteries and air commands in the above areas to prevent the occurrence of an unfortunate incident.

The Department has since received from the Navy Department another communication referring to the above and has also received your 1957, June 1, midnight and Tangier’s 139, May 26, 4 p.m. Navy Department’s latter communication refers to a report from the Naval Attaché in Tangier37 quoting Orgaz as having stated on June 1 that [Page 419] while pursuing enemy submarines into territorial waters of Spanish Morocco Allied aircraft will not be fired on, but that patrol planes passing over these waters will be warned by one shot in the air. Planes flying low over Larache will be fired upon and Naval Attaché infers this rule will apply as regards other coastal towns.

Navy Department does not understand how Spanish commanders can know whether planes are patrolling or pursuing enemy submarines, and therefore urges the practical solution of the whole problem of obtaining from the Spanish Government suitable assurances that firing upon our planes offshore in general will be stopped, and that having regard for difficulty of navigating blimps in strong winds these craft will not be fired on even when blown over land.

The Department is agreeable to the proposal that as regards areas within the jurisdiction of Orgaz, Childs be permitted to attempt a solution locally. However, Orgaz has no authority in Canary Islands and may deny authority as regards shore batteries in the Spanish presidios in North Africa. You are therefore requested to bring the above matters urgently to the attention of the Spanish Government and to indicate that as regards areas under his control General Orgaz will be approached directly by Childs. This cable is being repeated to Tangier for the guidance of the Legation.

Sent to Madrid, repeated to Tangier and London.

  1. Lt. Comdr. Robert W. Gilmore.